Pope Trivia: Answers
Welcome to the answers guide to our pope trivia questions!
Here are the answers to all of the questions we have asked so far:
Question: How long did the lengthiest papal election in history last?
A. Three weeks
B. Three months
C. Three years
D. Thirty three years
C. The election of 1268-1271 in Viterbo, Italy featured bickering
cardinals, but also the emergence of the first “compromise” pope,
Gregory X. Three cardinal electors died before it ended. Impatient
with the lack of results, citizens of Viterbo locked the cardinals into
their meeting room, limited the electors’ rations to bread and water,
and eventually removed the roof of the building so that the Holy
Spirit could get to the group more easily. These procedures
became the basis for the modern conclave.
Question: True or False? St. Peter’s Basilica is the episcopal seat of the Pope.
FALSE. The Basilica of St. John Lateran still holds that honor. It is
technically the cathedral of Rome and therefore given the title
“Archbasilica.” Not even St. Peter’s gets this title.
Question: What excommunicated emperor spent three days kneeling in the snow to beg forgiveness of the Pope?
A. Napoleon Bonaparte
B. Henry IV
C. Charles V
D. Emperor Palpatine
B. Henry was excommunicated during the Investiture Controversy,
which saw the Holy Roman Emperor attempt to appoint bishops
himself without papal approval. This had been common practice
previously. Pope Gregory VII eventually relented.
Question: What was the ignominious fate of Pope Formosus?
A. His still juicy remains were ordered exhumed by a successor.
B. He was placed on trial posthumously.
C. He had his fingers cut off
D. He was thrown in the River Tiber.
E. All of the above.
E. All of the above. A-D all happened in order during the famous
cadaver synod of 897. Formosus’ successor, Stephen VII, believed
Formosus had committed perjury and gained the papacy
illegitimately. The Cadaver Synod was meant to declare Formosus’
papacy null and void.
Question: How did popes of old escape if the Vatican should fall under siege?
A. They disguised themselves as simple hermits and quietly slipped
out into the Apennines.
B. A passageway connected the Vatican with Castel San Angelo, the
heavily fortified tomb of the Emperor Hadrian.
C. They crawled into an empty glass tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica and
kept really, really still.
D. They apparated.
B. The passageway, called the Passetto di Borgo, still stands and helps
Tom Hanks sneak into the Vatican in the film “Angels and Demons.”
Question: The last pope to retire was Gregory XII in 1415. What was the cause of his retirement?
A. He reached the impressive age of 103 and felt he could no longer
discharge his duties.
B. He was bribed to step down by an ambitious young Italian Cardinal.
C. There were two rival popes at the time, both of whom agreed to
step down so a new one could be elected.
D. Gregory looked out his window and realized the Vatican gardens
would make a spectacular golf course.
C. Gregory’s resignation ended the Western Schism, during which two
(and at a time, three) different popes claimed the papacy. After
Gregory resigned, the Council of Constance elected Martin V the
Trivia and answers provided by James P. Cahill.
Graphic by Angela Cox